Tells Court He Felt Sad That They Killed Haren Pandya
Udaipur-based gangster Azam Khan, deposing as a witness in the alleged fake encounter cases of Sohrabuddin Shaikh and his associate Tulsiram Prajapati on Saturday, said Sohrabuddin told him that he and two others had got the contract to kill former Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya and they killed him.
Deposing before the special CBI court, Khan, brought to the city from Udaipur Central Jail, said, “I felt sad and told Sohrabuddin they have killed a good person. Sohrabuddin told me this contract of killing was given by Vanzara.” D G Vanzara, former deputy inspector general of Gujarat, is now discharged in the encounter case.
Later, during cross-examination, when asked by the defence why this portion was not mentioned in his statement to the CBI, Khan said he was told by an officer that “Bakheda ho jayega (a mess would be created).” The court did not take this on record. “I said before the CBI officer that the killing of Haren Pandya (was) by Tulsiram Prajapati and another boy at the instance of Sohrabuddin. There is no reason for this omission in my statement recorded by CBI,” Khan said.
On March 26, 2003, Pandya was found shot dead in his car near Law Garden in Ahmedabad. The CBI’s case was that Muslim youths killed the former minister to avenge the 2002 riots. In August 2011, the Gujarat high court acquitted all 12 accused. In December 2011, an appeal was filed in Supreme Court challenging the HC order. It is pending. During the hearing, Khan said he met Sohrabuddin in 2002. He said he was introduced to him through one Zubair, a contract killer. Khan said that, over time, he grew close to Sohrabuddin and helped in the arrangements of his wedding to Kausar Bi.
He further said that once, when he asked Sohrabuddin why he had gone to Hyderabad, the latter told him he had gone to meet gangster Naeem Khan, who wanted to speak to Dawood Ibrahim. “He told Naeem Dawood is out of the country and is not talking to anyone, but he would arrange a call with Chhota Shakeel. Naeem consented and Sohrabuddin arranged it,” Khan said.
Khan also said that in 2004, Prajapati and one other person killed gangster Hamid Lala at the instance of Sohrabuddin. Khan said he too was arrested in the case in April 2005 but was acquitted in 2009. He said in December 2005, he had read in the papers that Sohrabuddin was killed in a police encounter. He said that when Prajapati, also arrested in the Hamid Lala murder case, met him at Udaipur Central Jail, he cried and said Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi were killed because of his mistake. Khan said Prajapati also told him he had agreed to pass on information about their whereabouts (on the bus from Hyderabad to Sangli in December 2005) as Gujarat police and Vanzara told him there was political pressure to arrest him due to the Hamid Lala murder case and firing at the office of Popular Builder. Prajapati allegedly further stated that he was assured that after four to six months, Sohrabuddin would be out on bail and they would be settled in Ahmedabad to occupy the place of a big gangster.
The gangster said Prajapati told him that after being apprehended from the bus by Vanzara and two others, Sohrabuddin, Kausar Bi and he were taken to an Ahmedabad farmhouse. Khan said Prajapati further told him that when Kausar Bi had intervened during an assault on her husband, she was taken to another place where he heard firing but could no longer hear her.
“He also heard firing in which Sohrabuddin was also killed,” Khan said. Khan further said Prajapati had allegedly told another inmate about wanting to kill Vanzara and Chudasama (Abhay Chudasama, an IPS officer, was discharged in the case).